Seventeenth century social status of women.

Essay by sanssocs2College, UndergraduateA-, January 2004

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At the dawn of American colonization in the beginning of the seventeenth century, members of the lower class in England had the chance to become members of a growing upper class. Hopefuls could travel to America if they agreed to certain terms of service that placed them under legal control by a master. As more immigrants poured into the colonies, the chances of obtaining social status lessened. The individuals who found wealth and power early passed their influence to family members and colleagues. Men of high social rank felt superior to servants and women, although they were once in the same position.

In colonial America, male predominance governed all aspects of society. Widows of wealthy men obtained inheritances from their late husbands, making them extremely desirable to single men. A noteworthy inheritance of land, servants, and money was basically the only way a woman could possess her own power and social rank.

Men utilized wealthy widows as a sort of stepping stone to gain status in the social system. For example, William Kendall, a former indentured servant, married his deceased master's wife and was propelled into the colonial elite. He was active in the community, holding numerous political positions. According to Pagan, "the heads of families formed the political community, and the monarch symbolically functioned as the father of all families." Males were given the responsibility of ensuring that their wives, children, and servants obeyed the law.

The colonial elite controlled almost every aspect of society. The growing influence of the wealthy corrupted the political system, causing biased appointments to leadership positions and unfair court decisions. William Andrews I was a powerful public leader. His son, William Andrews II, was chosen as the sheriff because of his father's influence. On many occasions, members of the lower class were...